Ask someone the first thing that comes to mind when they think of barbeque, and you can probably guess where they're from.
South Carolina serves up a tangy, vinegar-forward mustard-based sauce. If you’re looking for a sauce with tomato, you’re on a one-way trip to North Carolina. If you can't get enough pork smothered in sweet, smoky BBQ sauce, you call Memphis home.
If someone told you that their all-time favorite was "white sauce," they're probably from Northern Alabama.
Alabama’s BBQ isn’t as hyped as its Carolina or Memphis cousins, but the uninitiated are missing out.
The most recognizable part of the state's barbeque is the cult-following mayonnaise-based Alabama White Sauce — or what we call Ivory.
Why Is Alabama White Sauce Mayo Based?
This addictive white sauce is a mayonnaise (preferably Duke's) and vinegar-based barbeque sauce with salt, pepper, and garlic. Similar to a zesty coleslaw dressing, this sauce sometimes has a little cayenne or horseradish for an extra kick.
It's versatile, and you can enjoy it on anything from chicken to wings to fried fish.
Let’s uncover the many ways you can use Alabama white sauce.
Where Did White Sauce Come From?
When we’re thinking about the origins of Alabama white sauce, we know it was made almost a century ago in Decatur, Alabama, by Bob Gibson — the founder and pitmaster behind Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q.
Known for massive hickory-fed pits that house their famous smoked split chickens, Gibson started selling his innovative white sauce in 1925. At the time, mayo was an ingredient in many other country cooking staples, like deviled eggs and potato salad. Using it in barbeque sauce was new territory, and the mayo and vinegar cut through the smoky flavor of the meat.
As Gibson's BBQ became more famous, so did his white sauce. The rest is history. Eventually, Chefs and pitmasters all over the country were putting it on their menus.
How Can You Tell If You’re Working With High-Quality Alabama White Sauce?
When it comes to sauces, it’s all about the ingredients. A good white sauce will start with real, high-quality mayo—that means mayo made with real eggs. Quality Alabama white sauce also will not feature any fake sugars. The best versions (like our Ivory sauce) will be zero sugar and keto-friendly.
If your white sauce tastes like ranch, that’s another sign you’re not quite on the right track. Ranch is thin and buttermilky, while white sauce should be thicker and richer, with more tang from the vinegar. It will have a bite similar to that of Carolina BBQ sauce.
How To Use Alabama White Sauce
While initially made for smoked chicken, white sauce can be dunked, dipped, and drizzled over many of your favorite foods.
If you’re trying to incorporate this creamy sauce into your favorite dishes, here are six ways to use Alabama white sauce.
1. Use on Grilled or Smoked Chicken
Traditional Alabama-style barbeque chicken starts with whole chickens spatchcocked to lay flat with a simple salt and pepper rub. This dish is cooked at a slightly higher temperature, around 275 degrees, so the skin gets crispy. When the meat is fully smoked, dunk it in the white sauce.
You don’t even need to warm the sauce before using it. The finished product you’re pulling off the heat will remain warm enough to heat the sauce.
If you’re grilling chicken, apply the Alabama white sauce during the chicken’s last five or so minutes on the grill. Avoid bringing the sauce over direct heat to create an Ivory glaze. Then, serve with more on the side.
2. Slather on a Pulled Pork Sandwich
Pulled pork sandwiches are always delicious, but Lillie's Q's Ivory Sauce bumps up the flavor. Juicy smoked pork and tangy white sauce are a perfect match.
If you don't have time to smoke pork, Lillie's Q is here to help.
Enjoy our pulled pork that stole the show at Memphis in May. Our pork will leave your tastebuds begging for more, smoked over peach wood and vacuum-sealed whole for peak flavor and moisture.
3. Drizzle on Grilled Veggies
Alabama white sauce is great on meat, but it’s also delicious on vegetables. Drizzle it on grilled veggies like grilled asparagus, zucchini, broccoli, or green beans.
4. Use as a Base for Coleslaw
Coleslaw often involves a thick layer of mayo, so it stands to reason that using Alabama white sauce can take this BBQ classic to another level. Use our Ivory Sauce to add a punch of flavor to your next coleslaw.
5. Smother Grilled Corn on the Cob
Grilled corn on the cob is a traditional BBQ favorite, but it’s amazing how a little smoke and char can enhance the corn's sweetness.
While delicious on its own, you can upgrade your grilled corn and smother it with white sauce.
6. Use as a Dipping Sauce for Everything
Grilled shrimp, fresh veggies, crackers, french fries, mozzarella sticks, fried pickles, pretzels, wings… when it comes to dipping and dunking Alabama white sauce, you have unlimited options.
While many brands offer their own take on this creamy, tangy Alabama White Sauce, but they're not all created equal. Check the ingredients to ensure you're getting the best when looking for a mayo-based sauce that's true to Alabama white barbeque.
After years competing on the barbeque circuit, Chef Charlie McKenna created a sauce for each region where he’s competed, including our Northern Alabama White Sauce—Ivory.
Our Ivory Sauce is gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free. Unlike other sauces, we don't use fillers or high fructose corn syrup.
One last pro tip: if you’re planning to serve a massive BBQ spread that features multiple sauces, chicken dunked in our Ivory sauce would be the ideal complement to pulled pork covered in our ENC sauce.